What constitutes a criminal charge of unlawful use of a firearm in Illinois?

Zaid M. Abdallah

Answered by:
Zaid M. Abdallah

Located in Tinley Park, IL
Abdallah Law P.C.

Zaid M. Abdallah - Criminal Defense - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Zaid M. Abdallah

Abdallah Law P.C.
Tinley Park, IL
Phone: 312-229-0008
Fax: 708-907-5392

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Too often, individuals who face a charge of unlawful use of a firearm in Illinois get hung up on the word “use.” In Illinois, the charge may refer to unlawful possession of a firearm even if it was not being used in the commission of a crime at the time of the arrest. The question then becomes, what constitutes unlawful possession of a firearm?

It is important to know that it is illegal to possess a gun in Illinois without a valid Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card. The mere absence of an FOID is cause for a number of firearms charges. There are several other scenarios that may lead to an unlawful use of a firearm charge. These include:

  • Knowingly possessing a firearm or firearm ammunition if you have been convicted of a felony
  • Possession of a handgun when under the age of 21
  • Possession of a loaded weapon that is immediately accessible in a motor vehicle
  • Possession of an unloaded firearm with ammunition readily available in a motor vehicle
  • Possession of a firearm during a misdemeanor drug offense
  • Possession of a firearm during a violent misdemeanor (including domestic violence)
  • Possession of a firearm while currently subjected to a protective order
  • Possession of a firearm during gang-related activity

Most violations of firearms charges in Illinois constitute a felony. Conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to seven years for a Class 2 or 3 felony. Probation is often not an option.

In addition to prison time, a conviction will mean you have a weapons offense on your permanent record, which may negatively affect your opportunities regarding career or education, and impact your personal life as well.

The good news is an unlawful use of a weapon charge often can be challenged. Whether a weapon was discovered in a motor vehicle, residence or elsewhere, if police did not have legal authority to conduct the search, the evidence may be inadmissible in court, which may result in dismissal of charges.

In addition, it may be possible to challenge who was in possession of the firearm at the time of the arrest. Prosecutors must prove what is known as “constructive possession” beyond a reasonable doubt. An accused must exercise a level of control over the area in which the firearm is found. If a handgun is found in the glove box or under the seat of a motor vehicle in which several occupants are riding, it may be possible to argue the accused did not possess the weapon.

In other cases, a person who lives out of state may be adhering to his or her state’s laws regarding transport of a firearm, unaware that Illinois laws may be more restrictive. In these cases, it may be possible to have charges dismissed or reduced to misdemeanor charges.

If you are arrested for unlawful use of a weapon or any other criminal charge, it is important to enlist the help of a knowledgeable defense attorney immediately – before you answer questions from police.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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